Alyssa Milano’s suggestion that all women who wanted to show how widespread sexual harassment, sexual assault and abuse are use the #metoo hashtag has gone viral with variations being taken up in other languages.
Some find it empowering, some infuriating. Some simply have used the hashtag (personally, I didn’t go over my stories – I didn’t take all of them to therapy but I did enough work on it to know that, for me, it wouldn’t have been helpful to dredge things up to an even greater extent again this week) while others have pulled no punches in detailing the examples.
Some have seen their perpetrators charged, tried and jailed.
Some have never told a soul until now.
And some men (notably, the wonderful Terry Crews from Brooklyn Nine-Nine) have spoken up about times it’s happened to them. And the fact that it happened to HIM, in front of his WIFE, shows that even with people who stop thinking of women as sex objects and instead like The Rock (click HERE for the brilliant, Rock endorsed advice), size, strength and power doesn’t ensure safety.
When the sky turned an eerie yellow and the sun red on Monday afternoon, I imagined, for a few seconds, that it was the result of so many women’s rage. That our combined anger and rising to say ENOUGH had literally shaken up the world, changing the colour of the sky.
Reading story after story emerge, my emotions rollercoaster in a way they’ve been rollercoastering since 45* announced his candidacy for the Presidency. Sometimes, I feel jaded like nothing can surprise me. Other times, the outrage rises again. Sometimes, this feels empowering. Other times, I feel exhausted by it all.
On the Tube today, seeing a strange (to me) man glancing at the new report I was reading in the paper, I wanted to ASK him, What do YOU think about all of this? What will YOU do differently, as a man, to help ensure more women and girls are safe if you witness dodgyness? Obviously, I didn’t. I realised also that while I was raging (again) reading it, my face was in normal Tube Face mode and no one would have known about the turbulence I was feeling.
I don’t imagine I’m the only one. So I thought I’d share some thoughts in hopes some of them may help you:
- If you’re a man, please pause and bracket your feelings about how the revelations make you feel and ask the women in your life what, if anything, THEY want you to do to support them. The whole ‘What women want’ thing is as ludicrous as trying to define ‘What men want’ as if we were one homogenous group of people who all think and feel the same. Just like you, we’re whole people. My favourite definition of feminism, from Gloria Steinem, is simply this, thinking of women as whole people TOO
- If you chose not to #metoo, honour your decision to do what’s right for you. ALWAYS do what feels best for you
- If you shared your stories, BE SUPER GENTLE WITH YOURSELF. It’s a brave thing to do. Brene Brown’s work around shame and vulnerability teaches us that when we share our vulnerabilities with people who can hold and support us, we can avoid shame spiralling. The internet is a phenomenal tool for putting us in touch with support we could never have known about before. It can also be used to hurt people. Block people as necessary. Turn off comments if need be. Honour what is right for you
- Let your loved ones know what support you need. This isn’t the end of it. More and more high profile cases are coming to light and hard as it can feel to stomach the brutality and injustice, there’s a power in truth coming to light. Again, quoting the glorious Gloria Steinem, ‘The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off’
- Keep reminding yourself that you are safe now. You survived. You are so much more that what has been done to you.
- Notice what you feel in your body. Pay attention to how you want to move your body, maybe miming fighting back or lashing out many years or even decades later (it may sound silly but so much trauma gets trapped in our bodies, it’s amazing the difference listening, tracking and moving can make – read Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger and Babette Rothchild for more if you’re interested). You may want to mime punching or kicking or screaming or any of the things you were unable to do as you did whatever you needed to do in the actual moment/s
- You may simply want to stamp your feet and scream and shout – let it out of your body. If this feels like too much, a walk or, better yet, a good run or energetic swim or push ups or any thing physical which honours the body’s natural fight/flight instinct.
- You may want to take up kick boxing or something similar. Lifting weights, becoming more powerful physically can be healing. Maybe dancing it out is more your style. Go to a class or even draw the curtains and go wild in your living room
- Drag out your mini trampoline if you have one and JUMP it out. Stamping feet can feel scary or too silly for some but with a rebounder, you can get similar effects
- Write a letter to the perpetrators you couldn’t protect yourself from. This is not to send but to get it all out. Burn it and maybe decide if there IS anything you want to say or do in reality (pressing charges etc). Again, whatever you decide, YOU KNOW WHAT IS RIGHT FOR YOU.
- Journal the full spectrum of emotion as and when it feels helpful (if that feels too permanent, use looseleaf paper and burn it safely afterwards or even loo roll and flush it)
- Think about a time or imagine a time you felt happy, contented and at ease. Really comfortable in your own skin. It might be a moment from a holiday, from years ago or it might be something completely imaginary – when I was first asked to do this many years ago, I cried because I couldn’t imagine feeling so happily embodied and at ease in my own skin. I started out by imagining myself floating in the sea, far away from people. While I still adore the sea (in real life, too), I’ve built up a comprehensive mental library of happy places to imagine – time giving your brain a break from the horrors of the news / intrusive thoughts not only feels nice but has an impact on our physiology, reducing stress and boosting performance
- Woman or man, get whatever support you need and deserve – no one is broken beyond repair. Find a good therapist and/or support group. We can use the rage to heal and make the world a safer place for everyone.
What helps you? Feel free to comment below.
* Self-confessed sexual predator and white supremacist President of the US – since Lawrence Fishburne calmly called him 45 on The Daily Show many months ago, I’ve found that this simple number helps take some of the heat out of the pain and disbelief I’ve felt since enough people disregarded his recorded boasts of sexual assault and voted for him anyway